We must make the best of starting early

11th October 1996 at 01:00
The signs are that most of the nursery vouchers used from next April will be to pay for four-year-olds to join maintained primary schools. In effect this will be an unplanned lowering of the school starting age (LOSSA).

Linda Blackburne is right ("Light touch raises weighty issues", TES, September 20) to point up the inadequacy of the inspection process for private and voluntary pre-schools and the contrast with the more rigorous assessment of quality in school classes for four-year-olds. It is not in the interests of children for there to be two levels of inspection, and we certainly do not want to reduce the rigour of our assessment of quality in the schools sector.

We need recognition now by the Department for Education and Employment that our main task is to secure the quality of provision for these new early-starters in schools. That can be achieved by the DFEE channelling effort and funding towards the in-service training of early years teachers through Grants for Education Support and Training (GEST), a plan to increase the supply of teachers trained for early years and new capital funding to provide the accommodation for the lowering of the school starting age.

In other words, let us work together on a concerted and planned exercise to make LOSSA a genuine success.

ROY PRYKE Chairman Standing Conference of Chief Education Officers Maidstone Kent

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